It’s been a LOOOONNNG time since I have published a blog that was about an issue of Paganism specifically. As I have mentioned many times on this blog my degree was Religious Studies focusing on Contemporary Paganism, my senior thesis project was on the gay men’s movement in Contemporary Paganism. The research in that thesis was so applicable to a more secular lens of gay cisgender male culture in general that I simply started spending my post-college days on writing post reflections on a secular view of that project. But now I am going to back track and revisit the world of Contemporary Paganism again specifically with a queer perspective. I apologize to my non-pagan readers if this writing does not call out to you as much as my previous posts have. But after a recent Beltane festival I attended I am reminded of different heteronormative and gender binary issues within the world of Contemporary Paganism and what that implies for homosexual and non-gender-normative individuals that practice in the religion like myself. Much of this I explored in the conjecture between my professor and I in his office, and amongst other Gay/Queer-identified pagans. In a largely Duo-theistic religion categorizing it’s theology, occult mysteries, and general social structures based on God and Goddess imagery that is in fact heterosexual reproductive fertility mysteries…it can be difficult to find your experience and perspective truly represented as a homosexual or other-wise queer-identified individual.The contemporary Pagan world has grown more and more in modern times to be more mindful of queer inclusion. But there are still many issues to explore. Many men I talked to in my research recall earlier times when British Traditional covens and festivals would flat out refuse the inclusion of homosexuals based on the ideology that they could not experience the fertility mysteries they were exploring. Very clearly, women embodied the divine feminine mysteries and men the masculine. It all came down to the literal parts one has and how they play roles to create life. Vagina and Penis. So strict that rituals required that men and women be alternating perfecting in circle dances to balance the polar energies. Or with a maypole men HAD to hold the white ribbon representing semen and masculinity, while women HAD to hold the red representing menstrual blood and the divine feminine. To break this requirement was taboo and heresy to many groups back in the day (and still can be today). If you are defined by being attracted to the same-sex, or gender bi-nary non-conforming in anyway, this can throw a kink in the social machinery of Contemporary Pagan culture. I have had many Priests and Priestesses try to make it an argument of reducing it down to strictly genitalia. If you have a penis, then you join the men’s mysteries that are projective and Air/Fire based. If you have a vagina, then you join the women’s mysteries that are receptive and Water/Earth based. Yet that brings up difficult hetero-normative gender binary issues if you are trans or a homosexual that experiences an exclusive desire to be penetrated by men (or vise-versa a woman that desires to penetrate another woman). Yet I cannot be fully reduced to women’s mysteries because I do not experience menstrual cycles nor do I have a vagina, I cannot be a vessel of life and give birth to a child. But if you put me with the men, it’s all about being a projecting force which is our mysterious relationship to the receptive feminine mystery…Yet I love my prostate getting stimulated by dick…let’s be honest and that’s definitely not a projective desire nor experience. If the projective/receptive paradigm is so important, then does it not impact my psychological and metaphysical experience to be a male that receives sexual intercourse? Furthermore, I am what they call “vers” in the gay world…meaning I like both giving and receiving male-on-male intercourse. I have experienced and enjoyed both. I am not merely a penis seeking to ejaculate into something…I also experience the desire to let a man’s body inside of mine, and allow him to penetrate me. Which can be a very painful experience that requires practice and vulnerability to another male. A surrender of muscle control to allow his entrance into you. It’s practically the same consent issue a woman faces in her sexual relationship to men. That is not really represented in a classical men’s mysteries group, nor is it necessarily what a classic women’s mystery group is focused on. So if we have a Beltane ritual where women and men have to split off and explore their separate mysteries how do you solve the issue of a queer presence that defies the heteronormative/gender binary nature of the event?
It’s not simply a matter of the psycho-sexual mechanics alone for me. It’s also my experience being a feminized male all my life. I never fit the masculine mold. There are a great many gay men I have met that fit it much easier and comfortably than I…I couldn’t if I tried. I was made fun of for being gay long before I even understood homosexuality was a concept. I have always been more emotionally oriented; I express my feelings more. I can’t just swallow my feelings without closure and I have to have relationships that can be based on sharing as opposed to competition as a defining feature. Traditionally masculinity builds relationship on friendly competition. Gender psychologists say that little boys grow up using teasing, physical activity, and play to engage in competitive “who’s the king of the hill” social dynamics. For example, little boys might get together and play ball “I can kick this ball all the way to the other side of the playground” then another says “Oh yeah? Well I can kick this ball all the way to the clouds” and then other says “Oh yeah? Well I can kick this ball all the way to God!” That’s how boys are socially conditioned to make friends from a young age. Its intended as “friendly competition” and perhaps there can be such a thing. However, it can create a toxic form of masculinity that leaves behind people who can’t compete with the group. Men grow up with each other competing to get ahead, they joke and tease each other with jokes that establish superiority based on who’s a “cock sucker.” Video gamers constantly use rape analogies as jokes to establish competitive dominance over loosing players. “take that bitch,” “that’s fucking gay,” “suck my cock, faggot.” Are normative ways for elite males to joke with each other that fit easily into masculine norms. Even guys I have known that are gay say these things without a second thought about what they are implying. Because “it’s just joking” right?I grew up being the smaller, weaker, artistic, emotional, spiritual male in the group. I knew I was different from other boys in very early times in my childhood, not simply because I could not compete with other boys and didn’t feel like “being a manly man” was something I was interested in, but I didn’t like being put in the position to socialize with them. I would try to be their friend and engage in friendly teasing…but something about that form of socializing didn’t work well for me. I felt closer to friends I could share things with without always having to compete over everything, and felt this huge decompression of just being able to be myself when I had friendships (usually with girls) where I could share stories, feelings, and interests with. My closest friendships throughout almost all my childhood were girls my age. One’s who I could share conversations about fantasy stories we read, similar experiences we had with family, how things made us feel when we were dealing with problems in our lives. My closest friendships that I valued the most were always based on sharing, rather than competing. I was put in the position to compete, and both men and women expected me to because they expected “boys to be boys” but I never felt authentic or true to myself when in those situations, nor happy really. Really I would get frustrated with “friendly” teasing. I felt like guys were tearing each other apart to build each other up…and I really didn’t like it. So this may have been why from an early age people called me “gay.” I preferred to tell people how I felt, rather than swallow my emotions and “be a man.” I liked expressing my affection for my friends rather than show them I liked them by teasing them. I preferred expressing myself and having fun through artistic things (theater, painting, drawing, sculpture, music) rather than through physical activities. When I choose to respond to masculine bonding rituals (teasing and “joking”) with emotions that I would wear on my sleeve I was called gay for it.
Beyond all that it’s not simply being a guy that doesn’t fit in…it’s being feminized and identifying with what our society calls “feminine.” I never had the security of a “closet” like many gay men have. I was beaten up, thrown in lockers, and called “Elliott Fags” by other guys before I even matured enough in my sexual identity to own homosexuality as a part of my personhood with pride. So when I came out it wasn’t merely choosing to openly own the fact that I exclusively liked boys in a sexual and romantic sense…it was choosing to own all the things society hated me for and put me down for. Choosing to defy and disown “manliness” and “masculinity” as a defining feature of my being. Choosing to be unique in my gender identity and what that means about who I am. I like having a biologically male body. I like my genitals the way they are, I like having a flat chest, I like having a bit of groomed scruff on my face. But I don’t like being expected or reduced to anything that is traditionally “man.” I want people to acknowledge that my proper pronoun is “he” but I don’t want them to treat me like a stereotypical “man.” I also like wearing nail polish and make up, especially if it has a bit of…okay…A LOT OF glitter. Because it’s fun, I enjoy things that sparkle just simply because they make me happy. I like being creative with colors and make up. I like to wear clothes that accentuate my body instead of baggy “boy” clothes. They are more comfortable and snug on my skin, and I like to feel good about how my body looks. I feel out of place in a group of “men” unless of course they are “gay men” specifically. But I feel at home around women.
But even so, I relate to what most women feel and experience in a patriarchal society. Other men sexualize me sometimes with an entitled and disrespectful attitude. I experience being objectified and sexualized (often without wanting to be). There are times I like to feel sexually empowered, put on a harness and waltz around a group of gay men with my body exposed in such a sexualized manor and that’s all fine and good. But if you find me attractive and then all of a sudden expect me to give you sexual favors and affection without concern for if I even feel the same way about you? That’s a problem. I relate to those issues of men expecting things from me without regard for my consensual mutual feelings. Really the only thing that separate’s me from women in “women’s mysteries” based on the conversations I have had with priestesses is the ability to have menstruation cycles, physically having a penis instead of a vagina, boobs, and calling my self “she.” Still though I desire and receive the body of a man in me in my sexuality. I experience being sexualized and objectified by patriarchy. Men have put me down most of my life, told me what to do and what not to do with an entitled attitude. I have had to be empowered by the sacred feminine in me, to learn how to say “no…I WILL do what I want, as the person I am and you can deal with it.”
My major deity of worship is more an archetypal image and idea then a specific Goddess, but I call her the “Whore of Babylon.” She’s the image of a woman empowered by her sexuality and feminine-ness rather than submissive to a male because of it. She’s the mother of harlots and whores. She protects sexualized women and gives them their power through their sexuality so they are empowered to consent and choose who to allow into their body and lives, rather than being bought and sold by men. She is Matron of sacred harems, where whores are priestesses instead of commodities in which men own like objects. She gives women power in their sexual choices instead of giving them sexual obligations. But in my own workings with her consciousness through many Goddess images…she has a special place for the feminized and receptive men. Historically speaking many books I have read note that homosexual men where in harems with women. In ancient times men that received were regarded and treated as women. Men that penetrated other men still enjoyed equal status with other men without being demasculinated. We still see remnants of this today in the patriarchy ingrained in our culture. Effeminate and gender non-conforming men are used as an insult “that’s so gay” as manly men say it with a lisp and feminized voice. Masculine men in gay culture feel they cannot share equal power, respect, and space with feminized men without being demasculated.
To me my worship and relationship to the sacred Whore of Babylon, as been about being empowered by my feminized “being” instead of ashamed and disempowered by it. I realized a long time ago that I am simply who I am, I have behaviors, interests, and qualities that culture considers feminine. I am a receptive male. My gender expression and identity is highly obscure and not truly captured in a box that society recognizes. So I have to find ways to find deities that fit my own narrative and create meaning that reflects my experiences. Sacralizing a feminized “whore” as a Goddess is worshiping an image empowered (rather then disempowered) by her sexuality. Something a homosexual has to find a way to do in a heteronormative culture. While I am clearly not biologically a woman nor do I have a female gender identity. My male experience is highly feminized due to both my homosexuality and sense of being not fitting masculine expectations and finding more comradery and familiarity with the feminine experience. Blessed is my Holy Mother…because she turns no one away, especially those who don’t enjoy the power and approval of men.This is why “queer” sacred spaces are important in Contemporary Paganism. The normative world of contemporary Paganism has so much heterosexuality and gender binary ideas in it that no one really questions it. If you are queer you either, ask too many questions and people don’t know how to respond to your reproach or you just try to find the side you feel most identified with and go there. Yet its not that simple cisgendered women have very specific experiences that create their sacred space of “women’s mysteries” its not always just a space dedicated to feminine-ness. Its also a space for people who experience ministration cycles to explore how that impacts them and how it relates to occult mysteries. A Queer that is feminine identified but does not experience what that is like can interfere with what makes that sacred for women that experience that. So it only makes sense to make that a qualification for joining the sacred space. Yet what do you do with the queers? We don’t identify with masculinity so we feel out of place in the masculine mysteries. I think we have to create our own sacred space that deconstructs the binary and heteronormativity involved in the Contemporary Pagan social structure that represents our narrative more closely. Indeed I feel I channel sacred feminine forces more often than I do masculine ones. I can and have channeled masculine energies…but my experiences with the feminine mysteries have always been more powerful and meaningful. I really believe we queers remind people how useless gender is. It’s not a one-size fits all binary categorization, nor is it an objective reality. You could say the sacred feminine is strictly a matter of vaginal menstruating parts, yet the masculine isn’t exactly encompassing everything that is opposite of that. Maybe if this 1 dimensional binary no longer limited our understanding of our cosmology…we might realize divinity is something bigger than an anthropomorphic expression. That humanity is a diverse expression and not a predetermined mold. That man can be a beautiful Goddess. That gender is indeed fluid and non-binary.
Blessed Be ❤